Cargo: Sex Trade in America

“Cargo,” Yan Vizinberg’s feature film debut, is a revealing expose of the sex trade in America.  The film tells the story of a young Russian woman, smuggled into America by human traffickers, and an Egyptian transporter, hired to drive her from the Mexican border to New York City.

In her debut performance, Natasha Rinis plays a young Russian lured to the United States by the false promise of a modeling career. Vizinberg puts us in Natasha’s world: the brutal intimidation; the hours of isolation; the hopelessness reinforced by watching other women give in; the sudden explosive shocks; the disorientation. Without identity or a country to protect her, she will succeed or fail to preserve her freedom alone. This tiny Russian girl does everything in her power to break the bondage she foolishly stepped into.

Natasha’s transporter Sayed (Sayed Badreya:THREE KINGS, IRON MAN, INDEPENDENCE DAY) seems an impenetrable adversary.  A devout Muslim who stops to pray five times a day, he gradually emerges as something of a prisoner himself, rigidly honorable as a Muslim, and compelled by love for his family and in his obligation to rescue them from poverty in Egypt.

Natasha and Sayed give a human face to the ugly statistics (United Nations data):

According to studies, 161 countries are reported to be affected by human trafficking • People are reported to be trafficked from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries, affecting every continent and every type of economy • The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 – 24 years • An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked each year • 95% of victims experienced physical or sexual violence during trafficking• 43% of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of whom 98% are women and girls.

The Persona Films team, Abigail Honor, Chris Cooper and Yan Vizinberg, has consistently focused its attention on human rights issues.

LIVING IN EMERGENCY, an award-winning documentary on Doctors Without Borders, co-produced by Chris Cooper, was short-listed for the Academy Awards in 2010. Abigail Honor’s SAINTS AND SINNERS, a documentary account of gay Catholics struggling to be faithful to their religion, screened at over 75 festivals worldwide. Persona’s upcoming feature film, THE INMATE centers on the fate of a convicted rapist confined by the state after the expiration of his prison term.

Yan Vizinberg was first introduced to the world of human trafficking as a reporter for a Moscow-based TV station when he received a telephone call from a man who, he soon discovered, was a notorious human trafficker, claiming that the FBI was framing him with charges of human trafficking. Vizinberg’s anecdote makes clear the arrogance of those who live off this “industry”:

“He asked me to make a documentary film that would highlight the injustice that happened to him. I found some newspaper articles that claimed that the man ran a human trafficking ring, luring  young Russian women to the United States with the promise of an entertainment career, Once in the States, he’d take away their passports, beat them and make them work in strip clubs in New Jersey. I called the man back and asked him to explain. He claimed that keeping the performers’ passports is “standard practice” in the entertainment business—that it guaranteed that the women wouldn’t leave the country without completing the scope of work they’ve been ‘hired for’. When I asked about violence, he responded, ‘In America they can call anything violence. Sometimes you have to slap the girl to remind her what her job is’, he said, ‘and how much you invested into her.’”


The release of CARGO is supported by human rights organizations, including FAIR Fund and The Human Trafficking Awareness Council.